What-ifs of 1989 Seton Hall loss still haunt Australia's Andrew Gaze

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Williams calls Seton Hall foul 'worst call' of the tourney (1:48)

Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg join SC6 to reenact and discuss the controversial flagrant foul that sunk Seton Hall against Arkansas. (1:48)

Andrew Gaze still can't watch the game.

Oh, he's seen the final seconds, the agonizing last moments of a game in which he and his Seton Hall teammates were this close to winning the 1989 NCAA basketball championship.

But he has not watched the game in its entirety.

Twenty-eight years later, Gaze said he is more annoyed about that foul call against teammate Gerald Greene than he was when it happened.

Gaze is, of course, referring to referee John Clougherty's controversial call that sent Michigan's Rumeal Robinson to the foul line for a one-and-one situation with three seconds left in overtime of the NCAA championship game and the Seton Hall Pirates leading by a point.

Robinson, who shot just 65.6 percent from the charity stripe that season, hit two clutch free throws in Seattle's roaring, raucous Kingdome to give the Wolverines an 80-79 win for their first national title.

It was a dubious call in real time, but more horrendous in hindsight, one that may have decided what was an instant collegiate classic -- and one that Gaze didn't see again until a few years ago when his alma mater sent him a DVD of season highlights to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Pirates' fairy-tale run to the title game.

And then it got him upset. Really upset.

And for those who know Gaze -- and, to be fair, most people in Australia think they do, such is the likable esteem in which he is held -- you just knew it had to be egregiously bad for him to react in such a manner.

"And so there's the dying seconds and the call that was made," said Gaze, now the head coach of the Australian National Basketball League's Sydney Kings. "And I was more upset 25 years later than I'd ever previously been, because I got to see it in a rational, objective, non-emotional way and just thought, 'Oh my goodness, that's not how I recalled it.'

"It was bitterly disappointing, and I felt more emotionally attached than I did at the time. But it's probably better to be that way. The thing I reflect back on is the humility and the respect [Seton Hall coach] P.J. [Carlesimo], the school and the team showed when we probably had grounds to be very, very upset."

And although it happens infrequently -- usually it occurs this time of year -- Gaze, 51, still has an occasional what-if moment.

How could he not?

"It brings back a lot of fond memories," said Gaze, who averaged 13.6 points per game as a 6-foot-7 guard in his only season at Seton Hall. "There was a great sense of achievement, and it was a remarkable opportunity. For an international player at the time, it was a unique experience.

"You always wonder what might have been. There's a giant what-if there. There has been some times when you wonder what it would have been like to have won that last game."

Not only was it a unique experience for Gaze, but it ultimately blazed a trail for Australian basketball players to begin what has become a migration to U.S. colleges in record numbers.

There were 21 Australians on 14 college teams -- including seven at Saint Mary's -- participating in this year's NCAA tournament, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Only five of the Aussies, however, remain in the tournament. (Seton Hall, meanwhile, didn't make it out of the first round, losing 77-71 to Arkansas in a game that featured its own disputed call against the Pirates.)

For Gaze, tutelage under the fiercely vocal stylings of Carlesimo was as much of a culture shock as anything else he had to deal with.

Already a two-time Olympian by the time he arrived at Seton Hall, Gaze admitted he initially struggled with Carlesimo's volatile and temperamental coaching methods.

"It was a real eye-opener to me to have a coach with the style he has, which is vastly different to anything I'd experienced previously," Gaze said with a laugh. "For a little while there it was hard to comprehend, but once you get to know the individual and what they stand for, it's easier to accept the coaching methods."

For what it's worth, Carlesimo says he hasn't watched video of the game in its entirety either.

The gravelly voiced 67-year-old has an enduring passion for basketball, but sitting down and watching his beloved Pirates come within seconds of the ultimate finish is a bridge too far.

"I've never sat down and watched the whole thing. I've seen the last few seconds many times, unfortunately," said Carlesimo, who is now an NBA analyst for ESPN. "It wasn't painful at the time. It was an incredibly great game of basketball that went back and forth.

"We didn't like the late call. It was extraordinarily difficult to accept. It should have ended on a shot. It was a one-point game in overtime in front of a sold-out crowd."

Carlesimo coincidentally makes his home in Seattle after a lifetime of coaching in college, the NBA and the Olympics -- as an assistant for the 1992 U.S. Dream Team -- and he has his own what-if moments. Especially when he thinks back to the Pirates holding a 79-76 lead with less than a minute to play in overtime.

And even more so when he thinks about two missed free throws by his team: one at the end of regulation, one toward the end of overtime. Seton Hall had been clutch from the line all season.

"We were in really good shape. But twice we had a chance to make it a two-possession game, and we were never able to quite do it," Carlesimo lamented. "This time of year I have the what-if moments. That was the best chance we had to win a national championship, and to lose it the way we did..."